When Thai Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul met with Pfizer company representatives in Bangkok in late 2020, the businessman-cum-politician declined to place a Covid-19 vaccine order because in his words the shot was not yet proven effective on “yellow-skinned people”, according to government sources familiar with the meeting.
In January, US vaccine-maker Moderna proposed to build a Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing facility in the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) industrial zone, created to lure high-end foreign manufacturers, but Anutin’s office did not deign the shot-making proposal worthy of a written reply, according to the same government sources.
Before that, in September, the minister committed to buying just three million doses per month from AstraZeneca, a revelation only recently made public in leaked documents that has raised vital questions about government claims it has enough vaccines to inoculate 70% of the Thai population by the end of 2021. The amount has since been upped to five-six million per month.
SHAWN W. CRISPIN